September 24, 2010

TUNISIA: State acts to strengthen integration of older people in society

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TUNIS, Tunisia / La Presse de Tunisie / September 24, 2010

Tunisia Celebrates First Arab Day of the Elderly

At the initiative of Mrs. Leila Ben Ali, wife of the Head of State, tomorrow Tunisia celebrates the first Arab Day of Older Persons. Admittedly, the elderly, who constitute a large segment of society, have always been a special concern at the highest levels of the state.

The pyramid of aging has undergone a major transformation in recent decades. Characterized by an aging population, it is the result of progress in the management of diseases that have extended life expectancy. According to recent statistics, the percentage of seniors increased from 9.5% in 2009 to 17% in 2029.

Tunisian policy for the elderly focuses on the maintenance of older people in their normal environment and promotion of their place in family and society, on enhancing the contribution of their know-how and skills to the country's development and for consolidation of intergenerational relations.

To promote these principles, Tunisia continues to take action, beginning with the adoption on October 31, 1994, of a law to protect seniors, and addition of programs to ensure the independence of seniors. and also to ensure their contribution to public life and their status within the family.

Keeping older people in their natural environment

Maintaining seniors in their domestic environment is a major focus of social policy. To encourage families to support and care for elderly members, measures were taken for a quarterly grant to provide for their needs.
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali decreed this grant be increased from 150 dinars in 2007 to 190 dinars in 2010, to improve the living conditions of the elderly.

Elderly woman in Kairouan, Tunisia. 
By Andy Carvin/flickr

Implementing the policy, Ministerial Council of March 31, 2010 decisions became effective for  promotion of the elderly, taking into account their changing needs as also the increasing number of elderly seeking to benefit from the assistance. The number of beneficiaries rose from 3225 to 4910.

The health component is an essential provision for the elderly. Among other things is the decision to provide easy access to care when needed. For this, teams of medical staff, health carers and social workers have been created since 1992. These teams provide seniors peiodical medication, blankets, etc when they need it. Annual grants are made for equipment purchases. These teams, currently 35 in number, provide services to some 5,651 elderly (56% women and 44% men), will increase in number to 55. Under the XIth Development Plan, five new teams will be constituted during the year 2011 and will cover areas of high urban density.

Moreover, for psychological and emotional protection of seniors who have no family support, a monthly grant of 150 dinars is provided for each family. Social workers and multidisciplinary teams will monitor living conditions in these homes.

Integration of older persons in society

To enable elderly people to establish social ties and to ensure they do not sink into loneliness, it was decided to develop seniors day clubs for recreation. Seniors have the opportunity to partipate in cultural and entertainment activities and to establish friendships in these 40 day centers. Another 25 new day clubs will be established throughout the country.

Another strategy for promotion of the aging is reinstatement of retirees in the workforce. In October 2003, the Ministerial Council decided to create a register of skilled older people. This contains a list of retired seniors who wish to offer their skills for development of the country. A database of retirees who want to return to work is on the Internet  (http://www.kafaet-mousenine.nat.tn/)  More than 1,600 retirees are on the register. Today, most of them manage music clubs, drama clubs for children.

Besides the participation of older people to specialist committees in the field of Women, Family, Children and the Elderly, the ministry also plans to create, in collaboration with local authorities, 24 regional associations run by skilled seniors to organize activities for the elderly.

Encourage private investment to benefit the elderly

The state encourages establishment of projects day clubs and living units for seniors to ensure them right to live in a better environment.

For example, a day club for seniors and a seniors housing unit were established in the Tunis governorate. Six companies specializing in providing medico sanitary services for seniors living in their homes were set up,  four in Tunis, and one each in Sousse and Hammamet.

Copyright © 2010 La Presse.

Free translation from French by Seniors World Chronicle